lifestyle, travel This is Cozumel
Adventure travel
Jungle and river adventures.
  FEATURE: From Timbuktu to deepest darkest Peru, mankind has been seeing fairies in the forest for many millennia.

In the jungles of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize they are known as duendes in Spanish, or aluxes in the native Mayan language.

Perhaps better described as 'imps' or 'goblins', these mystical creatures are said to be just as mischievous as their Irish cousin, the leprechaun.

Like all fairies, whether they truly exist or not is open to debate, but one tour operator to the Mayan jungle believes that they do.

Fransje Jacobs, of Duende Tours in Mexico, runs highly-praised 5 to 9 day travel adventures to the Mayan rainforests.

Asked whether aluxes really exist, she laughs, saying, "but of course, if you really want them to".
Jungle tours
Wonderful sights and sounds of nature.

Her ecologically friendly tours make no promises that you will see fairies in the forest - and as yet no one has managed to snap a photo of a duende - but they are fast gaining popularity for travellers that want to leave the beaten tourist track.

Dutch-born Fransje works with a small group of enthusiastic people who love adventure travel. The team comes from a variety of countries and started exploring the jungles of the Mundo Maya over 7 years ago.

Using bicycles and canoes their tours take adventurers deeper into the jungle than many other local operators. This way they are able to reach beautiful, sometimes very remote ancient Mayan sites.

Often built close to rivers, lakes or other sources of water, Fransje says her aim is to make these remote sites and adventures accessible for active people that enjoy nature, fun and new experiences.

She enthusiastically explains, "after a few nights of pure air and mystical encounters with the jungle's intense sights, smells and noises our customers relax and start seeing life in a more positive way."

Interest is surging in the packages offered by Duende Tours, as ecotourism continues to increase in popularity and travellers seek less commercial ways to enjoy their vacations.

But Fransje's philosophy is not about making money from tourism trends, she emphasizes the importance of helping local communities.

She says, "we are a bridge between cultures, interacting with the local population and helping locals. We try to provide well paid jobs and education everywhere we go. Wherever possible, we stay and eat at small, family run places."

There are not many other adventures like these jungle tours, where nature is your teacher and you can truly learn new things daily.

If you want to share the wonderful sights and sounds of nature in the Mayan jungle and experience a more traditional, everlasting lifestyle, Duende Tours are well worth the money - you might even be lucky enough to find a fairy in the forest!

For more information visit Duende Tours Adventure Travel website.